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Yankee go home?

International | Despite the warm official welcome for Jiang, protesters treat the communist leader to street democracy, American-style

Issue: "Forbes: Right on the money," Nov. 8, 1997

Chinese President Jiang Zemin donned a three-cornered hat and strolled the streets of Williamsburg before moving on to other cradles of democracy. He made appearances in Washington, Philadelphia, and Boston. For Mr. Jiang, taking the part of a Yankee Doodle Dandy did not add up to a new commitment to liberty and justice for all. But that didn't stop President Clinton from concluding new agreements with Mr. Jiang in a policy the White House calls "constructive engagement."

A communist leader dressed up like an American patriot? The scene at Lafayette Park across from the White House was no less unusual. The 1,500 protesters who gathered during the Clinton-Jiang summit formed a circus maximus of the political left and right. Robed and shaved Buddhists shouted slogans alongside staid evangelicals. Liberals unhappy with President Clinton's silence on China's forced abortions competed for applause with conservatives tired of trade as usual. Hollywood types stepped to the podium to articulate a moral basis for freedom while the more intellectual freedom-fighters were content with epithets.

At one point Maryland physician Chris Kahlenborn, a pro-lifer, cornered a labor activist about Mr. Kahlenborn's soon-to-be-published book on breast cancer and abortion. The implications of his research, he maintained, are important for anyone concerned about human rights and abortion in China. In other forums, most of these "new co-belligerents" would find each other disagreeable.

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The Family Research Council's Gary Bauer told the rally, "The media is obsessed with the unusual nature of this coalition. I would rather be in this coalition than the other unusual coalition: American capitalists and Chinese communists, the coalition that now includes the man from Hope, Arkansas, and the Butcher of Beijing."

But Mr. Bauer got the only mixed reaction of the day when he said, "This debate is really about the United States-who we are and what we believe, about whether the political elites and the foreign policy elites have the courage to stand for American values." The constant drone of drums and the shaking of pebble-filled soda cans ceased when he turned the talk toward home.

The day's event included:

Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, daughter of Robert Kennedy and daughter-in-law of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, delivered a point-by-point indictment of China for its forced abortions, "Kafka-esque procedures called a trial," and trade policies. She called President Clinton "perpetually mute" on Chinese abuses, and the niece of JFK told a cheering crowd, "Ich bin ein Beijinger."

nAmnesty International spokeswoman Bianca Jagger said, "Jiang Zemin has traded on human rights as if they are a commodity. Stop persecuting Christians, Buddhists, and Muslims. Stop forcing women to have abortions and be sterilized."

Beastie Boys rocker Adam Yauch stressed the proliferation of nuclear weapons and environmental waste. "Tibet is the answer to most of the problems we are facing," he said, wooing a crowd that, in the end, was dominated by Tibet sympathizers. Actor Richard Gere, a Tibet activist and close associate of the Dalai Lama, who referred constantly to "his holiness," was clearly the event's centerpiece.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) told the group, "The inalienable rights are endowed not by government but by God."

Mr. Jiang came into the summit unrepentant. Chinese officials proudly displayed a mobile abortion clinic-a white van equipped with bed, body clamp, and suction pumps-at an international population control conference in Beijing just before the meeting. Beijing also released "a white paper on religious freedom" prior to the summit, which veteran Chinese church-watcher Jonathan Chao called "pure propaganda." And, instead of releasing a prominent dissident, as human-rights advocates had hoped, the government re-arrested Catholic Bishop Su Zhimin just prior to the summit and sentenced Protestant Pastor Xu Yongze, who has been held since March, to 10 years in a labor camp for "disrupting public order."

By the time the last megaphone fell silent on the north side of the White House, President Clinton had welcomed Mr. Jiang with a 21-gun salute on the South Lawn and had lunched with him. In between, they had formally concluded a major agreement on nuclear weapons, with China agreeing not to supply nuclear weapons to Iran or Pakistan in exchange for a U.S. agreement to sell billions of dollars' worth of nuclear power equipment to Beijing.

The two leaders signed off on a $3 billion deal that allows China to buy 50 planes from Boeing. And Mr. Clinton agreed to continue the "one-China" policy, which denies official recognition to Taiwan.

Later that day, Mr. Jiang denounced firmly and publicly Mr. Clinton's entreaties on human rights, maintaining that the Tiananmen Square massacre was necessary to preserve political order, and, as he did before the summit began, calling the concepts of freedom and justice "relative."

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